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Soldier denies killing comrade in prank

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Soldier denies killing comrade in prank
Photo: DPA
16:20 CEST+02:00
A German soldier who accidentally shot dead another soldier in Afghanistan testified Wednesday that the accident was caused by a jammed gun, not a prank. The 21-year-old is facing charges of manslaughter and disobeying orders.

In a statement at the start of the soldier's trial in the eastern German town of Gera, the prosecutor claimed he was aiming a P8 handgun at his comrade's head when it accidentally fired a round. The incident happened inside a tent in an army outpost near the Afghan city of Pol-i Khomri in December 2010.

The prosecution's case is based on witness statements and a technical report that apparently rules out the weapon misfiring.

The accused soldier claimed that the shot went off when he hit the bottom of the magazine because it had jammed. After it went off, the soldier said he threw the gun on a nearby bed and rushed to the injured man's aid. His comrades then sent him out of the tent.

The soldier also denied that he had been playing a prank on the victim. He said he had pointed the gun at the door, and not realized that the victim had come in. “I was concentrating on my weapon,” he said.

At the time of the incident, the soldier said he had already spent two months at the camp, and was extremely tense because he had been assigned to go on a mission the next day. He added that the soldiers in the camp were under orders to carry a loaded weapon at all times.

A 20-year-old witness testified that the accused pointed the weapon at the victim's head. “There was an unbelievable bang and fog in the tent,” he said, before describing how the accused's face went pale as he walked to the bed and put the gun down, while someone else screamed.

The witness also said he did not notice the accused hitting the bottom of the magazine beforehand and that the handgun the army uses was very reliable if properly cared for. “It can only go off if I pull the trigger,” he said. He added that their instructions were not to use force if the gun was jammed, but to put the safety on and remove the magazine.

But the witness also added that constantly carrying a loaded gun round meant that many soldiers lost their respect for their weapons. He said many soldiers played games with their guns, despite instructions not to.

Another witness confirmed that soldiers occasionally indulged in gun-play, and often took photos of each other posing with the weapons pointed at each other.

The accused was discharged from the army in March and is currently in training to be a mechanic.

DAPD/The Local/bk

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